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Although young, the Illustrators Survival Corner by Mimaster Illustrazione has already become a major event, loved by illustrators and editors. “As organisers for over 50 years of the Illustrators Exhibition and the broad programme of events at the Illustrators Café”, says Elena Pasoli, BCBF Exhibition Manager, “supporting young illustrators is part of our tradition. But a few years ago we realised we had to do more, a decision that was prompted by our encounter with an amazing partner, Mimaster Illustrazione. In just a few months, together we created the Illustrators Survival Corner, which is now one of our most successful flagship events. In fact, we have already successfully ‘exported’ the format to other venues, since this fun professional programme - curated by Mimaster - can be modulated in many different ways”.
Participants can take part in the wide programme of masterclasses, workshops and portfolio reviews led by talented artists and professionals working with major international publishers of illustrated books. A regular feature of the Bologna Book Fair, the Illustrators Survival Corner had its debut in China at the 2018 Shanghai International Children's Book Fair.
In 2019, with the start of BolognaFiere’s partnership with the Moscow International Book Fair, the Illustrators Survival Corner also went to Russia. Ivan Canu, Director of Mimaster Illustrazione, and Giacomo Benelli, Coordinator, told us about their experiences across the globe.
What Survival Corner features are most popular? The most popular appointments are the ones we call ‘survival meetings’, the events that provide tools or professional knowledge of immediate use. We are always very impressed by the range and level of attention of the audience during the masterclasses dedicated to contracts and copyright: two intense hours of technicalities and detailed questions that can put even the sharpest minds to the test! In general, it’s the specifically focused events and activities that are most attended. That includes meetings on subjects like cover design, and editorial products in the broadest sense. In Russia, the workshop by Cristiano Guerri - Art Director for the Italian publisher Feltrinelli - on book covers was massively attended. The same goes for the masterclass held by Suzanne Carnell - Publisher Director at Two Hoots – on the picturebook market in the UK. Then there are the portfolio reviews. There can never be enough portfolio reviews – ever! The new portfolio review events in Shanghai and Moscow were packed from the very first day with people eager to get advice on how to build their portfolio from the reviewers on hand – illustrators and professional people from illustration agencies. We’re delighted by the participation of so many editors and publishers, all really enthusiast to support and share their expertise with the new generation of illustrators.
Have you identified substantial differences between these three countries and how has your approach to the public changed over the years? What we do is try to put together and capture trends. In Russia, there’s great curiosity about the European market and its publishing dynamic, from the creative/design point of view and in terms of workflow. In Moscow, there were over 700 portfolios reviewed during the 3 days of the fair. There are huge technical skills in illustrated books and great interest in self-publication and fanzines. We are sure that the BCBF partnership initiative with the Moscow International Book Fair will help encourage young Russian illustrators to start attending trade fairs and illustration festivals outside the Russian Federation, and so have an opportunity for editorial and professional growth. In China, the situation is quite different. The vast Asian market includes countries like Japan and Korea with their highly developed publishing markets, and this is reflected in Chinese publishing and consequently in the portfolios the Shanghai Survival Corner participants showed us last year. In addition, the contribution of the Asian tour of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair’s Illustrators Exhibition has been key to opening new avenues and opportunities for everyone involved. But when it comes to the questions and doubts of young illustrators, geography matters little. From Mimaster in Milan to our time on the east coast of China, the questions do not change. Just now we’re working on the next edition of the Survival Corner for the China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair in November. The teamwork between Milan, Bologna and the Chinese staff is really strong. The Survival Corner changes identity in line with the main themes of the host fair. Each year when we return to China, the more aware we become of the needs of Chinese illustrators, so we try hard to give them useful suggestions and make sure they have a memorable time at the fair.
Could you name an artist you would really like to have at the Corner? The first names that come to my mind are Shaun Tan, Oliver Jeffers, Tom Gauld, Dave McKean, Peter De Severe, Isabelle Arsenault, but the list is really too long!
The 24h Marathon
But that's not all! For the BCBF2020 Online Special Edition, Bologna Children's Book Fair and Mimaster Illustrazione have organised a 24h live marathon involving 24 international illustration professionals who will review the portfolios of 240 illustrators. The Marathon, scheduled for 5 May, was sold out in a few hours. But BCBF and Mimaster invite illustrators to stay tuned, as there’s always something new to discover in “Survival”’s worldwide plans.